Prince Harry is Prince Charles’ son and Prince William’s brother. He is sixth in the line of succession to the throne of England, which is an accident of birth and privilege. Prince William was the firstborn, primogeniture. Prince Harry served in the British Military and founded the Invictus Games. He was ‘spotted’ by terrorists and he is a target.
The crisis in Britain’s royal family saddens me. However, it may not be another frères ennemis scenario.
They are not brothers, but both Alphonse de Bourbon and Jean de France claim they are heirs to the throne of France. Rivalry… However, Jean de France is a descendant of the last roi des Francais, the above-mentioned Louis-Philippe Ier, of the Maison d’Orléans.
I am pleased that my excellent mother could and did treat her children as equals. I then became a loving husband’s “princesse.”
There have been many Dandins. I remember François Rabelais‘ Perrin Dandin (Pantagruel, Third Book XLI), perhaps an early Dandin. Given the oral tradition, this Perrin Dandin may not be the first.
However, there is a Perrin Dandin in Racine’s Les Plaideurs (1668) and in La Fontaine’s “L’Huître et les Plaideurs” (“The Oyster and the Litigants”). La Fontaine’s “Oyster and the Litigants” was published in his second volume of fables (1678), but may date back to the early 1670s.
Perrin Dandin is a simple citizen in the “Pantagruel” of Rabelais, who seats himself judge-wise on the first stump that offers, and passes off hand a sentence in any matter of litigation; a character who figures similarly in a comedy of Racine’s, and in a fable of La Fontaine’s.
Ironically, Jean Racine‘s Les Plaideurswas first performed in November 1668, at l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris’ most prominent venue. It therefore premiered, in Paris, the same month as Molière’s George Dandin. Molière’s George Dandin is not a judge, but whenener he runs to his in-laws, he brandishes a contract. I have pointed out that in Paris, George Dandin was no longer a comédie-ballet and pastoral. It was a three-act farce in which a peasant lived the consequences of a marriage which, he thought, would elevate him to gentilhommerie. George Dandin’s Gentilhommerie is the Sotenvilles. “Sot” means stupid (and related adjectives).
A sotie is classified as a medieval farce and morality. Some argue, however, that it is a separate genre. Marrying Angélique, whom he had not courted (galanterie), was unesottise (foolish or silly) on the part of George Dandin. Could he not see sot in her parents’ name? They are Monsieur and Madame de Sotenville (from sot), and Madame de Sotenville was born a La Prudoterie, from prude. In Molière’s Le Misanthrope, Arsinoé is the opposite of Célimène. The prude is the opposite of the mondaine. Moreover, names such as Sotenville do not seem real. They seem and may be allegorical.
Whereas the characters in a farce would be distinguished individuals with proper names, the characters in the soties were pure allegories. The characters had names such as “First Fool” and Second Fool”, or “Everyman”, “Pilgrim” etc. Sometime there would be a leader of the fools, called “Mother Fool” (Mère Sotte).
(See Sotie, Wikipedia.) Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned.
The above Dandin is not Molière’s George Dandin. It is Jean Racine’s Perrin Dandin featured in Les Plaideurs (1668). Racine’s Dandin is a besotted judge who has to judge at all times. While judging dogs, he allows his son Léandre to marry Chicanneau’s daughter Isabelle.
DANDIN : judge, LÉANDRE : son of Dandin, fils de Dandin. CHICANNEAU : bourgeois. ISABELLE : Chicanneau’s daughter, fille de Chicanneau (chinanery). LA COMTESSE. PETIT JEAN : portier. L’INTIMÉ : secrétaire. LE SOUFFLEUR (prompt).
L’Huître et les Plaideurs
In my opinion, the best-known Dandin is Jean de La Fontaine’s. He is featured in L’Huître et les Plaideurs (The Oyster and the Litigants). Two pèlerins find an oyster. They both claim ownership of the oyster. Perrin Dandin walks by our pèlerins who decide he should judge who is the owner of the oyster. Perrin Dandin eats the oyster and takes our pilgrims’ money.
Un jour deux Pèlerins sur le sable rencontrent Une Huître que le flot y venait d’apporter : Ils l’avalent des yeux, du doigt ils se la montrent ; A l’égard de la dent il fallut contester. (read more)
Pendant tout ce bel incident, Perrin Dandin arrive : ils le prennent pour juge. Perrin fort gravement ouvre l’Huître, et la gruge, Nos deux Messieurs le regardant. Ce repas fait, il dit d’un ton de Président : Tenez, la cour vous donne à chacun une écaille Sans dépens, et qu’en paix chacun chez soi s’en aille. Mettez ce qu’il en coûte à plaider aujourd’hui ; Comptez ce qu’il en reste à beaucoup de familles ; Vous verrez que Perrin tire l’argent à lui, Et ne laisse aux plaideurs que le sac et les quilles.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Livre 9, fable 9
Two pilgrims on the sand espied
An oyster thrown up by the tide.
In hope, both swallowed ocean’s fruit;
But before the fact there came dispute.
Amidst this sweet affair, Arrived a person very big, Ycleped Sir Nincom Periwig.
They made him judge, to set the matter square.
Sir Nincom, with a solemn face,
Took up the oyster and the case:
In opening both, the first he swallowed,
And, in due time, his judgment followed.
“Attend: the court awards you each a shell
Cost free; depart in peace, and use them well.”
Foot up the cost of suits at law,
The leavings reckon and awards,
The cash you’ll see Sir Nincom draw,
And leave the parties—purse and cards. JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Book 9, Fable 9
L’Huître et les Plaideurs (Commons Wikimedia)
I wrote that comedy has redeeming mechanisms, such as the deceiver deceived, or trompeur trompé. In l’École des femmes, despite raising a wife, Agnès, Arnolphe loses her when she meets young Horace. Her instinct leads Agnès to fall in love with Horace and find safety in his presence. Yet, one sympathizes with Arnolphe. He loves Agnès, but he doesn’t know galanterie. The comedy ends in the traditional marriage. But comedy has more than one plot formula. Farces are circular. Dandin will forever plead his cause, but what if he had opened the bolted door when Angélique was desperate, and comforted her. Beauty loves Beast.
But suddenly I remembered the medieval soties, not to mention Reynard the Fox, its comic trial and Bruin losing the skin of his nose when it gets wedged in an opening in a log. But it’s “no skin off my nose,” as it grows back. It’s like a cartoon. Jill Mann, who translated the Ysengrimus, the birthplace of Reynard the Fox, into English, compares this phenomenon to the flattened cat of cartoons who fluffs up again. In the world of cartoons, injuries may be reversible.
George Dandin lived before cartoons, but Molière knew the sotie and the cartoonish Reynard the Fox (Le Roman de Renart).
The Wikipedia entry on sotie compares the genre to carnivals. Mikhail Baktin, who studied Rabelais, identified the carnivalesque in Rabelais, a world upside down. Molière has not broken any rule. The carnivalesque is a constante in literature. However, Molière has a way of humanizing fools and vice versa. The Misanthrope is the epitome in this æsthetics.
I will make these words, my last words on George Dandin who is both right and wrong. But he is less a fool than the Sotenvilles, or is it the reverse?
By the way, “se dandiner” means to waddle and Dandin is a family name. George Dandin’s name is not allegorical.
____________________ Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned. Jill Mann, “The Satiric Fiction of the Ysengrimus,” in Kenneth Varty (ed.), Reynard the Fox: Social Engagement and Cultural Metamorphoses in the Beast Epic from the Middle Ages to the Present (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000), p. 11.
Racine’s Phèdre is about love and jealousy. In certain seventeenth-century works of literature, jealousy is the feeling that reveals one is “in love.” Love is therefore looked upon as dangerous, because jealousy can be an extremely painful feeling. The foremost literary expression of this phenomenon is Madame de la Fayette‘s novel entitled La Princesse de Clèves, published anonymously in 1678. It is considered a masterpiece of Western literature.
This post is not about Phèdre, except indirectly. I am using images related to Racine’s Phèdre, whose plays, tragedies, are rooted in Greco-Latin models or mythology. However, Racine’s tragedies usually convey a meaning not entirely intended in the Greco-Roman “model.” Moreover, Racine’s plays are examples of works of literature that were considered as well written as their source. The literary maturity of seventeenth-century French literature triggered the famous Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. As we neared the end of the seventeenth century, many claimed that the modern work of literature was at least as fine as the Greco-Latin “model,” which was often the case.
On Jean Racine
Jean Racine is one of the most prominent dramatists in French literature. He lived during the seventeenth century, the age of Pierre Corneille (6 June 1606 – 1 October 1684), best known for Le Cid (1637) and Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), one of the “greatest masters of comedy in Western literature,” (baptized 15 January 1622 – d.17 February 1673). (See Molière, Wikipedia.)
Jean Racine‘s Cantique is a translation and a paraphrase (a rewording) of an earlier text. Set to Gabriel Fauré‘s music, it nearly becomes what the romantics, nineteenth-century authors, artists, musicians and critics, would call the “sublime.” Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) set Racine’s Cantique to music when he was nineteen-years old.
A canticle is a song of praise taken from biblical texts other than the Psalms (Wikipedia). Magnificats, hymns of praise, are canticles. Racine’s text is a translation and a paraphrase of Consors paterni luminis. It is part of Racine’s Hymnes traduites du Bréviaire romain (Hymns Translated from the Roman Breviary), published in 1688.
I have recycled images used in my posts on Racine’s Phèdre. Phèdre’s husband slew the Minotaur, the offspring of Pasiphaë, Minos’ wife, and a bull. The Minotaur’s father may be the Sacred Bull. The Bible’s Golden Calf is an example of the worship of bulls, calfs and cows. Pictured below is the Bull of Knossos, or the Cretan Bull. The Minotaur‘s mother is Pasiphaë, Phèdre’s and Ariadne’s mother. The Minotaur was slain by Theseus, Phèdre’s husband, who used Ariadne thread to find his way to the Minotaur through the labyrinth built by Daedalus, who crafted sadly-remembered wings for his son Icarus.
However, let us focus on Gabriel Fauré’s (op. 11) musical setting of the canticle translated by Racine. Bulls will be discussed elsewhere. They were worshipped in Egypt, so it’s a long story.
By and large, we no longer worship bulls and bull-leaping is antiquated, but we do have bullies a-plenty.
Best regards to all of you: my family!
Fresco of bull-leaping from Knossos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jean Racine (22 December 1639 – 21 April 1699) is the foremost dramatist (tragedy) of 17th-century France. Racine is best known for his tragedies the most powerful of which may be Phaedra EN (Phèdre FR) which premiered 1 on January 1677, at l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, the best venue in Paris.
In Greek mythology, Phaedra is the daughter of Pasiphaë, the granddaughter of Helios, the personification of the Sun, and the daughter of Minos, king of Crete and the son of Zeus. She is married to Theseus, the founding hero of Athens, who slayed the Minotaur, aided by Ariadne, Phaedra’s sister. Ariadne gave Theseus a thread (le fil d’Ariane) to guide him to the Minotaur, was enclosed in the Cretan labyrinth. The Minotaur is the child of Pasiphaë and a bull and, therefore, a half-brother to Phaedra and her sister Ariadne. As for the bull, he may be the Sacred Bull, a White Bull. Europa was seduced by Zeus disguised as a bull. (See Europa, Wikipedia.)
In Racine’s tragedy, Theseus, Phèdre’s husband, has a son by a previous marriage, Hippolytus. During a lenghty absence, it is reported that Theseus has died. Phaedra, who has fallen in love with Hippolytus, tells him she loves him. Hippolytus is horrified. However, Theseus has not died. When he returns home, a jealous Phaedra—she has learned that Hippolytus loves Aricie—tells Theseus that she was seduced by Hippolytus.
Theseus calls on Poseidon (Neptune), who has promised to grant him wishes, and asks him to avenge him. A monster comes out of the sea and kills an innocent Hippolytus who is riding on a horse. Guilt-ridden Phaedra commits suicide.
Racine’s play is based on Euripides’s Hippolytus, but Jean Racine’s play is the work of a writer who views love as devouring passion.
As for Gabriel Fauré‘s Cantique de Jean Racine, it was composed when Fauré was 19. The text itself is a paraphrase, by Racine of a Medieval hymn entitled Consors paterni luminis. In Racine’s paraphrase (see below) God seems distant as He also seems in Phèdre.This hymn is sung at the beginning of Matins, the Canonical Hour that ends as day breaks. Set to Fauré’s music, the meaning of the text, an almost despairing hope that God “notre unique espérance” (our only hope) will have mercy on powerless humanity is expressed in a poignant yet resigned manner. Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine is the centrepiece of this post.
Alexandre Cabanel: a portrait of Phèdre
Our featured artist is Alexandre Cabanel (28 September 1823 – 23 January 1889), an academic painter. He won the Prix de Rome and was awarded the Grande Médaille d’Honneur at the Salons of 1865, 1867, and 1878. In 1863, Cabanel was elected a member of the Institute, founded on 25 October 1795, and appointed professor at the École des Beaux-Arts.
Cabanel’s art has been described as art pompier (pompous), but his portrait of Phèdre is exquisite and renders her inability to fight a fatal love. She looks powerless. Cabanel’s most famous work is The Birth of Venus, 1863, housed at the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris.
The Birth of Venus, by Alexandre Cabanel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(please click on the picture to enlarge it)
Le Cantique de Jean Racine: the Text
I have not provided an English translation of Racine’s Cantique. However, translations of the canticle are available, in several languages, at ChoralWiki (simply click).
Verbe, égal au Très-Haut, notre unique espérance,
Jour éternel de la terre et des cieux ;
De la paisible nuit nous rompons le silence,
Divin Sauveur, jette sur nous les yeux !
Répands sur nous le feu de ta grâce puissante,
Que tout l’enfer fuie au son de ta voix ;
Dissipe le sommeil d’une âme languissante,
Qui la conduit à l’oubli de tes lois !
Ô Christ, sois favorable à ce peuple fidèle
Pour te bénir maintenant rassemblé.
Reçois les chants qu’il offre à ta gloire immortelle,
Et de tes dons qu’il retourne comblé !
composer: Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924)
work: Cantique de Jean Racine, Op 11
I receive many notes about my posts. They help me navigate “blogland.”
This morning, I received a valuable note. My reader wrote to tell me that I should write about something important. She was commenting on my blog on the idea of “absolute music.”
Well, many years ago, one of my students commented that studying Jean Racine‘s Phèdrewas not important.
I told her that sub specie æternitatis, studying Phèdre was not important and that, in fact, despite what psychologists tell us, we are both important and not important and then asked the class to look out the window. We could see a cemetery in the distance.
They did and then returned to their respective chair.
It was a small class of about twelve students, a nice mixture of people. So, to continue the narrative, I invited them to discuss the idea of “importance” as it was an “important” idea and, therefore, that it had to be addressed. Our discussion of Phèdre would simply have to wait.
Suddenly, they turned into “philosophers.” You’ve no idea how impressed I was. I had of course withdrawn into the role of moderator. When the class was over I thanked them for what had been a great discussion.
They had spoken about relativity. What was important to one person was not important to another. Some like tea, some prefer coffee. But, but more importantly, they had talked about the big questions: life and death.
I ended up telling them that, for me, what was important was to give meaning to my brief journey on earth and make it pleasurable, not only for me, but also for those who are journeying with me.
Some will like my posts and some will not. It depends on my reader’s tastes, needs, and goals in life.
As for seventeenth-century French literature, one reads Phèdre and/or another play by Racine. He is one of three major playwrights in seventeenth-century French literature. Racine is on the programme and in the context of the course, Phèdre is important. I had to teach Racine.